1. Stop with the Alpha Males
I know. Strong, successful, assertive, masculine (in the most traditional sense), serious--all these things are sexy. I tend to agree. You know what's not sexy? Arrogant, entitled, possessive, taciturn jerks. Romance writers, you've got to give me a reason to like the guy. Otherwise, I'm going to hate him and think the heroine's stupid for swooning over him.
2. Passive Heroines
I don't need my heroines to be Lara Croft traipsing all over the globe for treasure or Scarlet O'Hara making dresses out of curtains. I do need her, though, to do something other than think about the hero. Maybe it's just me, but I think great drama can from two together people with a lot going for them being suddenly confronted with having to make space for a partner. That kind of conflict can only happen, though, if the heroine is doing more than waiting for the hero to wander into her coffee shop.
3. Love at First Sight
Yes, it's romantic. But when you're writing category romance and you only have a couple of hundred pages to get the guy and the girl together, love at first sight reads as rushed and unbelievable. Maybe I've been reading too many category books lately, but I like romance that has seduction, where the two leads slowly fall, where they don't realize they're hooked until they're in too deep. Love at first sight takes some of the romance out of romance for me.
4. Occupations that make no sense
You can not be a 27 year old college professor with tenure and three award winning books. You just can't. You can't be 30 with an M.D. in psychiatry and a PhD in psychology, a thriving medical practice, and a thriving career as a self-help author. You just can't. You can't be a successful musician who spends no time practicing. Stop it.
5. Deep Dark Secrets That are Neither Deep nor Dark
Here is a good secret: at 17 you became pregnant with your boyfriend's baby. You find out this information right after the two of you have a big fight and break up. Instead of telling him about the baby, you have an abortion. After the abortion the two of you reconcile, but the weight of what you've done, the fear of how he might react if he finds out, keeps you from getting back together with him. You grow apart after the two of you go away to college. 15 years later you meet up again and the attraction is still there, but you can't pursue it unless you tell him your secret. You still don't how he will react, but you feel this relationship might be worth it.
I'd read that story.
You know what else is a good secret? The fact that you used to work as a professional escort. I'd read that story, too.
- you gave up a dead man's baby for adoption 16 years ago--so what?
- your ex-fiance killed your father and now he is after you--why haven't you called the police?
- your dead father is an alcoholic--again, so what?